Tuesday, 20 February 2018

THREE DOORS UP EXHIBITION RECAP

Just some immediate thoughts and reflection from our recent group show in Three Doors Up. The show was called Who Me? and was the collective work of the 2017/2018 Fine Art Masters group from Cardiff School of Art and Design. While not a traditional exhibition, the space was presented as more of a working environment with a relaxed attitude. We were encouraged to drop in and produce work, change up the pieces and evolve the show over the period.

For this show, I chose to exhibit my Schoolday’s End self-playing game. I had initial thoughts to have the piece projected onto a wall, but it eventually worked out better to display via an old CRT TV on a plinth. A requirement of the space was to have a sofa for people who wanted to come and chat. I positioned my work adjacent the couch, something which I felt added a little to the overall feeling of my work and suited the nature of the exhibition.

I was able to change up my game throughout the show, adding different things, correcting errors, adding a new level and overhauling the colour. Other artists produced works on paper in the space, adding to the exhibition throughout the fortnight.

Some commented on the ramshackle appearance of the show, and I do indeed agree that we could have taken a more refined approach. Overall it wasn’t particularly bad considering it was the first time we had all exhibited together and also that we had all mostly different work. Part of my idea for at least one of our future exhibitions is to have a theme to glue our works together. It can be a loose theme, perhaps just a word or phrase, but something to help make it feel like a curated show and not just a collection of works produced by people studying together.

As far as paperwork was concerned, we had a printout of artist statements. There were no other materials, and some artists and visitors expressed that we should label the work, perhaps also including a visible price. It would probably have been useful to some extent, but I did enjoy approaching the public and explaining the works and artists, often giving much more insight than a simple title or printed piece while allowing for further conversation and discussion.














Thanks to Rob, Richard and Ronnie for their parts in the organisation of this show.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

THOUGHTS ON REVISITING OLD IDEAS

I’ve started noticing a pattern in my recent projects: that I’ve been revisiting old ideas and reworking them, trying different approaches, techniques and developments.

Typically, I work quite quickly with ideas. They are executed as close to conception as possible. This is not to say that these ideas don’t develop over time, or develop through iteration, often I can build and change out as I go. This lets me see if something is working or not if I am achieving what is intended.


Examples of this are in the Emoji Morandi project, which originated as a collection of eBay images, followed by paintings, and now as a series of emoji paintings (above). See also my latest game about mining, which was prototyped a few years ago as a proof of concept for a game about mining lyrics. When trying to create work in response to Bitcoin, it was the perfect opportunity to hang that idea on.

Much of what I have produced over the past few years is site or project specific, which I think lends itself quite well to this approach. More recently, I’ve been able to make explorative work in the process of my Masters. Perhaps this has allowed me to revise old ideas without the limitations inherent making something for a specific exhibition. It might also be understood that the safe framework of the academic environment allows me to revisit these concepts and further develop them. Either way, I’m enjoying this new approach of revisiting older work.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

ADDITION AND SUBTRACTION PROCESS

WORK IN PROGRESS

I thought I’d like to show a little bit of work in progress and also talk a little about my processes for this latest project.

For this piece, I’ve used a Unity plugin to create some Perlin noise generated landscapes. These landscapes were randomly generated again and again, until something that might work as a naturally occurring border appeared. To this, I first add a body of water, a skybox, lighting, weather, and flora. I then use a first-person controller to explore my environment, adding in downloaded 3D objects from found sources via the Unity store.

Within the play-throughs, I try and find little scenarios that might work with implicit narratives, perhaps items that might be identified as relating to an imagined border situation while simultaneously referencing gaming semiotics.


Above is one finished image. Throughout the development of this project, I have taken 100+ of such screenshots. Below, are a few examples of my different attempts, showing my exploration with adding and subtracting objects this screenshot. Unity allows me to work in a painterly kind of way, building up composition via this process until I have something with which I am happy.





Incidentally, this particular shot was inspired by a painting I had completed many years ago, taken from a Google Street View trip around Northern Ireland.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Nokia Cocks Twitter Bot

NokiaCocks is an automated Twitter bot that periodically tweets lewd text-based penises, reminiscent of the glory days of the Nokia 3210.


Two things influenced this project: to rejuvenate a previous attempt to recreate this era, and my ambition to create an absurdist Twitter bot.

My first attempt at this was back in May 2017, where I had a little fun making the tweets up by myself. I lost interest after a few weeks, assuming that it had run its course. More recently,  after experiencing some hostile bots on Twitter, I planned to create something of a counter-bot which sole purpose was simple, puerile humour. I felt like this would be a perfect opportunity to develop my NokiaCocks into something autonomous.

By randomly choosing different parts of the penis, the bot is able to make up to 5million different variations. At a rate of two cocks per day, the twitter bot will, theoretically, be able to produce enough cocks for 6,978 years worth of tweets before repeating itself. Starting to sound a lot like Silicon Valley here.




I see this Twitter bot and my School Days Over self-playing mining game to be very similar. Both have been born out of a response to the very recent globally detrimental use of computer automation and also as an attempt to capture something fun and perhaps culturally significant.

I look forward to what this bot will produce over the next few years.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

SCHOOL DAYS OVER: MINING GAME

via GIPHY

I thought I’d write up a little work in progress report on a new game I’ve been developing.

The concept for this game came about perhaps two or three years ago, where I was getting annoyed with the surplus of mining and crafting games. After the exponential success of Minecraft, it seemed like every new game incorporated some facet of its game mechanic. I grew immediately tiresome and felt like making an anti-Minecraft game that used these same mechanics to draw attention to the social and historical issues of mining. My initial thoughts were to produce a game that featured politically motivated songs about mining, inspired by a moving performance of The Mountain by Steve Earle in St. David’s Hall in Cardiff, Wales. Earle remarked that this was his only song to have been translated into Welsh, poignantly highlighting the relational nature of the working-class struggle.

I parked my first attempts until relatively recently until two things again inspired me:

The desire to make a self-playing game following this keynote, and, the evolution of Bitcoin as a mainstream currency.

When simplified, it is possible to see Bitcoin as something of a self-playing game; hugely powerful computers run programmes that slowly ‘mine’ cryptocurrency. The recent popularity of Bitcoin can be seen to be mostly in part to media coverage, but the typical user has grown from early-adopter pizza purchasers to money laundering, gangsters, and other illegal activities. I wanted to make my game along the same lines as Bitcoin, but instead of mining for something considered morally dubious, I aimed to produce a game that mined for something culturally beneficial. In this case, song lyrics.

What I’ve arrived at (so far) is a 2D self-playing game referencing the 16-bit era. A solitary protagonist slowly mines out a pit, uncovering lyrics of the Ewan MacColl song School Days Over with each block. The miner gradually gets slower, a-la Bitcoin. Some of the design decisions have been taken from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, a game from my childhood. I've included below a few different colour palettes to give an idea of the progress of my prototypes.





Regarding gameplay, I had the miner as a formerly playable character, but after reading about self-playing games, I felt that removing player interaction would relate my game better to both Bitcoin and online streaming services. It was also my intent for the viewer to feel as merely a helpless spectator.

The lyrics uncovered by the miner are from a song by Ewan MacColl, presented as text along the bottom of the screen. MacColl’s song is about leaving school at a young age to go down into the pit, and I wanted to juxtapose this with a game of childish nostalgia. I had considered using Minecraft and a bot to relay this message but changed to building a self-contained 2D standalone game. Currently, I have the lyrics in English, but I have considered using Welsh translated lyrics for two reasons. I don’t think this song has ever been translated. Secondly, I’d like to see a translation done using something automated like Google Translate, again, reiterating using something of robotic nature for cultural good.

So there are a few little things left to fix for this game but I’m relatively happy with the current prototype in both looks and execution. Watch this space for a proper release soon.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

CARDIFF MUSIC CITY

I’m writing this post as my initial reactions to the announcement of Cardiff as the UK’s first ‘Music City’.

I’ve lived in Cardiff for ten years now, and my experience here regarding music has been as a concert attendee, a promoter, and as a musician. I am excited that Cardiff has received this status. In fact, there are a lot of people who are very pleased about this. Cardiff is a great city for music, musicians and gigs. But I have some gripes.

Let me list a few things off the top of my head:

Dempsey’s is now a football-themed grub pub.
The Globe has long resorted to booking endless safe-bet tribute bands.
The Point has been closed down due to noise complaints.
The Coal Exchange is now a hotel.
The Barfly is now a craft beer bar.
The Full Moon is now a prohibition-themed cocktail bar.
The Moon was forcibly closed only to reopened due to outstanding local fundraising support.
The flats & Wetherspoon hotel on Womanby street were eventually vetoed due to the Save Womanby Street campaign.

So with this in mind, what does it mean to be a ‘Music City’? The recognition is given by the London-based company, Sound Diplomacy, who specialise in delivering ‘strategies that increase the value of music ecosystems’. It appears that Sound Diplomacy will now work alongside the local council to create a new music/tourism platform in the capital.

North Sea Gas earlier this year, at the Four Bars

I don’t see this as recognition for an already thriving music city. I see this as the musical lifeline that Cardiff fundamentally needs.

Friday, 8 December 2017

UILLEANN PIPING & UNESCO

There are two things regarding uilleann piping that has happened this week:

UNESCO has recognised Uilleann piping as being representative of the 'Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity'. Excellent news! This result is a testament to the continued hard work and dedication of Na Píobairí Uilleann to the promotion of playing, learning and manufacture of the instrument.

In a particularly insightful message, President Michael D Higgins remarked that the uilleann pipes "connect us in profound ways, weaving together cultural memory and contemporary vision".



Somewhat along those lines, and in much less important news, is that have I gotten a new chanter. I've been looking for a suitable chanter to match my old set of pipes, and the opportunity came for me to acquire this 19th-century instrument which I believed to be the same maker as my own set.




It appears to be related to the Eighteen Moloney, which is in my opinion, one of the best sounding instruments ever (see recordings by David Power and Willie Clancy). Supposedly, the Eighteen Moloney was made by the Moloney brothers of Co. Clare around 1830-40. Both the Eighteen Moloney and my new chanter very much resemble the work Michael Egan of Liverpool and not really like the most famous instrument of the Moloney brothers (The Vandeleur set, pictured below).



Either way, the chanter is an exquisite example of a pre-famine instrument, and I look forward to getting a good reed going (below) for it and marrying it up to my main set of pipes.